Coach Supervision

Coach supervision provides support for coaches in developing themselves both personally and professionally. 

Having invested in coach supervision for many years now and as a professionally trained supervisor I have experienced its many benefits. I feel passionately about the need for all coaches, who are serious about developing their career as a coach, to undertake some sort of supervision. It provides a way of maintaining the professional and ethical standards of the industry as well as developing coaches to be the best they can be...all in service of our clients who trust and invest in us.

Here I will explain a bit more about what coaching supervision is, it's purpose and what you can hope to gain from it yourself as a coach.

What is coach supervision?

Coach supervision is the practice of reflecting upon your work as a coach, usually with a trained supervisor. It is often emphasised as 'super-vision' providing you with an enhanced ability to 'see' your work from multiple perspectives. If not viewed like this coach supervision could be misconstrued as a more managerial practice by someone with more power than yourself 'checking' that you are 'doing it right'. Far from this, the relationship is more of one of equals, where the supervisor and coach (supervisee) sit 'side by side' in a safe, non-judgemental space getting curious about the your work as a coach. Through this process the you gain insight into yourself, the client and the work you do together.

The purpose of coach supervsion

The purpose of coach supervision can broadly be categorised into four functions.

1. Ethical/professional: ensuring that the coach works to both professional and ethical codes of conduct.

E.g. A coach in working with a particular client may find themselves 'out of their depth' as a client brings a topic of alcoholism to explore. The coach may start to question how to deal with this situation in the most ethical way.

2. Developmental: helping the coach to develop their competence as a coach, putting a focus on their skills, approach and the tools they use. E.g. the coach may find that working with a client doesn't seem to be going as well as they had anticipated and so want to explore the approaches and tools they are currently using and alternatives that may be available to them. Or a coach may have have had a month where their coaching appears to have gone really well and they want to analyse and build on their patterns of success.

3. Supportive: providing a safe, non-judgemental space in which the coach feels listened to and supported as doubts, concerns and insecurities arise. E.g.the coach may have had several clients end their coaching relationship and so is starting to doubt themselves as a coach.

4. Business: focusing on developing aspects of the coach's own coaching business. E.g. the coach may want to explore how to attract and retain new clients.

6 benefits of coach supervision

Over the years my own experience of coach supervision has highlighted the following benefits

1. Having a safe and confidential space to explore what is working and not working

Knowing that your supervisor is there to help you reflect, learn and support in a confidential space is hugely reassuring when exploring situations which might not have gone so well, or even when you want to be able to give yourself acknowledgement for work well done.

As a coach you too are expected to maintain confidentiality with your own clients, agreeing only to discuss any issues arising within another confidential conversation, where this may be in service of the client. The supervision-relationship provides this confidential space. 

2. An opportunity to learn from our reflections rather than be crippled by unhelpful self-criticism

Many coaches I know set themselves very high standards and will mull over their work as a coach. At times, however, these reflections become unhelpful as the self-critic kicks in, resulting in paralysis rather than insightful learning and meaningful action. Supervision provides the opportunity to step back and look objectively at your work rather than become trapped in a cycle of unhelpful drama.

3. An opportunity to uncover and explore the deeper factors that influence the way we work

It can be easy to assume that the work we do with a client is only influenced by the tools and strategies we employ as a coach. In fact this is only part of the story and there is a complex web of relationship dynamics which influences our work.The client and how they show up at a session, the environment they work in, your relationship with the client and your own background and life experiences can all impact on how we coach. A good supervisor will help to uncover these influences and enable you to be better equipped to manage yourself and work with them.

4. A champion to help you celebrate your successes and challenge your own boundaries as a coach

Coach supervision, as mentioned earlier, provides the opportunity for you to develop yourself as a coach. And to develop you need to be able to step outside your comfort zones at times and try out new things. A coach supervisor, that person who can remind you of your strengths and capabilities, can support and challenge you to do just that.

5. Tailored support from a professionally trained partner

Most coach supervisors coaches are themselves experienced coaches,  are professionally accredited with professional coaching associations such as the International Coach Federation (ICF), the Association for Coaches (AC) or the European, Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), and are professionally trained in coach supervision. As such they can provide specialist and tailored support to meet your specific needs as a coach.

6. Many organisations now require coaches who have a coach supervisor

It is a fact now that many large organisations require that the coaches they engage, undertake some sort of coach supervision. For examples many tenders for provision of coaching in the public sector in the UK build this as a prerequisite. This provides them with a quality assurance that the coaches they are engaging continuously reflect on their own competence as a coach and have a commitment to their development.

Typical topics brought to supervision

Coaches bring a myriad of topics to supervision depending on their specific needs at a particular time. Some of the topics I have either brought myself or my own supervisees have brought to me include:

  • 'I feel stuck with a particular client and I want to know how to move them forward.'
  • 'A couple of clients I have been working with recently have ended their work with me and I am questioning my ability as a coach.'
  • 'I seem to attract similar clients and wonder why this is.'
  • 'I've noticed some common themes arising with clients and would like to explore this.'
  • 'I've noticed that I feel exhausted after working with a particular client and wonder what is going on.'
  • 'My work a coach is going really well at the moment and I would like to build on this.'
  • 'I've started to question whether I am more of a coach or mentor. I want to explore who I am a coach.'
  • 'I'm working with a particularly challenging team at the moment and would like some support to help me feel more confident in working with them.'
  • 'My client doesn't seem to be getting much out of their sessions and I am afraid that I will lose them as a client.'
  • 'My client has suddenly brought a really challenging topic to their sessions which has really triggered me. I am wondering how to work with them.'
  • 'My coaching feels stale and I want to find a way of freshening it up.'
Solo Build It!

Supervision Models

Different supervisors will draw upon different models and resources to help shine a light on your coaching practice. One model frequently used, and one which coaches can use themselves to develop their own 'internal coach supervisor' is the 7-eyed model. In this article I have explained more about this model and how you can use it to help you reflect on your work.

Types of coach supervision

There are different types of supervision that fit different needs and budget. Below is a brief description of some of the forms that are available.

One to one supervision

Usually with a professionally trained coach supervisor this provides an opportunity for support that is exclusively tailored to you as an individual coach. It can also increase the feeling of safety knowing that only the supervisor will be party to what you share with them. It can also afford more flexibility in scheduling sessions that suit you.

Group Supervision

Lead by a trained supervisor, group supervision provides the opportunity to receive supervision alongside other coaches, who all play a role in the process. This methodology allows the supervisee to benefit from the perspectives and experiences of several coaches and all of the coaches involved in the group benefit from the learning generated by each supervisee. It is likely to involve smaller financial investment however, a group supervision session is likely to be longer than a one to one session.

Groups themselves may be set up differently. Some groups are set up with members matched for compatibility, e.g. coaching experience, approach, type of client or the type of work they do such as one to one or team coaching. Other groups are more open and fluid with coaches dipping in and out of sessions over time. 

It is worth asking yourself what you would prefer. Clearly having a consistent group over time provides the opportunity to build up rapport and trust amongst members, whilst a more transient group allows for wider perspectives to be brought into the supervision session.

Peer supervsion

Peer supervision involves coaches taking responsibility for and leading their own group supervision, where typically, none of the coaches are professionally trained supervisors. The participants will take in turns to take on the supervisor role. This can be a good way of feeling part of a supportive coaching community where issues can be explored. Limitations may arise depending on the experience and skills of the coaches and their knowledge of some of the deeper psychological processes that play out within coaching relationships.

Virtual Supervision

As technology improves so does the opportunity for coaches to work remotely with their supervisor without compromising the quality of the interaction. Given that one the most important factors to consider is the coach-supervisor relationship, it is important to ensure that a virtual relationship supports rather than gets in the way of creating a safe and supportive environment. If the appropriate virtual platform is used and the supervisor has a range of methodologies for working both creatively and effectively then this provide a great opportunity to work efficiently and cost-effectively.

Related articles

The seven-eyed model of coach supervision


I've shared with some of the basics of coach supervision. If you would like to know more  or are interested in coach supervision for yourself or your coaching team, then please get in touch using the rapid response form below, or contact me on +44 (0)7947 040478.

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